When Belief is Aspirational

Posted by on Aug 7, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

cold snow wood light

Have you ever asked if we do what we believe, believe what we do, or sit in an uncomfortable space of a bit of both, with belief and action sometimes congruent, sometimes not. It’s worth thinking about as it digs into the gap between what we say we believe and how we then live. For example, what are we to make of the simmering resentment we might feel towards another while we continue to happily pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Or how do we evaluate ourselves when we have a failure of courage in the face of a challenging situation while we continue to affirm that God can be trusted, even though we didn’t trust in this situation, and perhaps many others?

It comes across in other areas as well. A Nomad podcast I listened to a few years back (and sorry, I can’t locate it, but I am confident I’m remembering the thrust of the cited study accurately) claimed that over 80% of church attenders have not adhered to the sexual guidelines taught by their church, and asked what the pastoral implications are for congregants who are routinely reminded of the gap between their past (and often present) behaviour, and what should be. While I can’t vouch for the veracity of the study (I was at the gym, and my balance wasn’t good enough to juggle listening, the cross trainer and note taking!), I do know that many of our churches are filled with people whose marriages have not worked as they hoped, who feel deeply ashamed of some things they have been involved in, and who find it difficult to be honest about their actual life experience.

Another example: Perhaps you remember the slogan World Vision once used: “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” Sure, but how are we to quantify that? What do our bank balances say about how much we love and who we trust? Should we decide what we actually believe by how much we keep for ourselves?

TBH, I don’t like this line of questioning. It is so easy to make people feel guilty and as though nothing they do will ever be enough. It’s a short step from doing that to faith turning ugly (yes, I have written a book with a similar title) and there is nothing commendable about that.

What if we shift the narrative, and view doctrine and our beliefs as aspirational, rather than routinely achieved. Do I believe that God can be trusted. Absolutely. Do I always succeed in doing so? No! Does that mean I don’t really believe what I said? No – it means I am on a journey and on my better days I manage to live according to my dreams, rather than my fears. And I hope you catch me on my better days, but I can’t guarantee this.

This is, of course, as the scriptures suggest it will be. 1 John warns us that if we say we have no sin, we delude ourselves (1 John 1:8). John was writing to Christians. Paul lamented his ongoing inner struggle. At times it left him close to despair – you can’t miss it in his “wretched man that I am” lament found in Rom 7:15-25.

What does it mean to view belief as aspirational?

It means I shift the narrative away from what I haven’t been able to do and focus a little more hopefully on what I strive to live up to and what I occasionally do achieve. I might also set more modest goals. Instead of promising to forever be loving, kind and gracious, why don’t I aim to be it for the next few hours, and then for the few hours after that. It’s the old Alcoholics Anonymous trick, and if it often works for those who struggle to stay sober, perhaps it can also help those of us who struggle to “live a life worthy of the call” (Eph 4:1).

Behind all of this is an important word that is begging to be spoken. Let’s not forget about grace. Commendable though my efforts to do better are, my hope does not rest on my ability to achieve, but in what has been achieved for me at Calvary. While we will never be able to adequately summarise or understand what took place at the Cross of Jesus, somehow Christ’s death has bought me life, and set me on a new path. And even when I wander from it, and my beliefs and actions are jarringly discordant, the love of Jesus holds me tight. Between aspiration and reality is a gap – but Jesus straddles it for us, and does so in a way that does not leave us feeling beaten and condemned, but hopeful, and willing to keep aiming high. And we show that we really do believe, when we believe enough to keep aspiring…

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

Feel free to reproduce this post or to forward to any who might find it helpful.

No Comments


  1. When Belief is Aspirational - Vose Seminary - […] post When Belief is Aspirational appeared first on Brian […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Brian Harris

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading